P. Gopichand: The Olympics should be postponed

When the whole world is thinking about the health and safety of its citizens, it is better for the Games to be deferred, says Gopichand.

P. Gopichand: “The IOC has to take a call now for everyone to relax.”   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

The Tokyo Olympics should be postponed given the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s chief badminton coach P. Gopichand has said.

The Olympics is scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 9, and calls to defer it have been growing in recent days. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, said on Wednesday it expected the Games to begin on time.

“I have my doubts about the Olympics. It is not like it is far away. The preparation has to start now. So, the IOC has to take a call now for everyone to relax,” Gopichand told PTI.

“I think, in the present scenario, with the health scares and all the travel restrictions and all, it is a tough time and at the moment the whole world is thinking about health and safety for its citizens, so I think given the situation it is better if the Olympics is postponed,” he added.

Wrong decision

The Badminton World Federation was severely criticised for conducting the All England Championship earlier this month, despite the rapid spread of the deadly disease. International players, including London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal, slammed the BWF, saying players’ safety was compromised for financial gains. Gopichand also criticised the federation.

“Definitely, I think it was a wrong decision on BWF’s part to put the players at risk by hosting the All England,” said Gopichand, who is currently in self-isolation after returning from Birmingham.

The BWF has suspended all tournaments until April 12. There have been calls to extend the Olympic qualification period, which ends on April 28, following the postponement of a number of Olympic qualifiers. Gopichand feels there are no easy answers and that the BWF is in a tough spot.

“What is happening is unprecedented, so I think any decisions will have its merits and demerits. I think whatever is equal and fair for everybody should be done. We can’t satisfy everybody and hopefully it is equal for most people,” he said.

BWF ‘in a tough spot’

“I think BWF is in a tough spot, any decision will be criticised. When you extend Olympic [qualification] period, you are talking about a lot of things like accreditations, visas, support teams, local associations. So it is not easy and there are constraints. Unfortunately, it is an unprecedented situation, so we have to follow whatever decision they take.”

The SAI-Gopichand academy in Hyderabad has been shut down until March 31 to contain the virus following the directive of the Telangana State government. Asked if it will affect the preparations of the Olympic-bound players, Gopichand said, “The players who had come from All England via various places like Dubai have to be quarantined. They don’t have any tournaments in April, so till the time it is a two-week break from training, it is fine. If it extends further, we will have see [what is to be done].”

He added: “The players also need some rest, so it is better to stay home and work on fitness.”

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